Jabari McGhee's buzzer beater at the end of regulation sent Tuesday's game against Albany into overtime, and then McGhee and the Herald No. 1 Tornadoes took care of business in extra time to stay undefeated.
ALBANY — The Albany boys basketball team might have played its best game of the young season Tuesday night, but it wasn’t enough to stop Jabari McGhee.
Monroe’s McGhee — a 6-foot-7 senior who Albany coach Archie Chatmon called “the best player in South Georgia” after the game — scored a career-high 33 points and hit a buzzer beater at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime, where he and the Herald No. 1 Tornadoes held off Albany for a 65-64 victory.
McGhee’s floating one-hander in the lane as time expired was the shot of the game in what could end up being the game of the year in Southwest Georgia.
“My guys did a great job of contesting him and not fouling (on the final shot of regulation),” Chatmon said. “He just made an unbelievable shot. He shot that ball over three people.”
McGhee saved any celebration until after the game was over.
“I was just thinking (after the shot), ‘Let’s go, let’s go,’ ” McGhee said. “This game is going into overtime, so let’s play. We got our second chance.”
McGhee opened the overtime period with a 3-point play, and the Tornadoes (6-0, 4-0 Region 1-AAAA) never trailed again.
STAYING ON TOP: Both the Monroe boys and girls teams woke up Tuesday morning on top of the Herald’s first Fab 5 Polls of the season, and then the Nadas and Lady Tornadoes went out and gutted out a pair of victories against Albany High.
McGhee said starting the year as the No. 1 team comes with added pressure.
“It does, but if you have pressure on you, you just have to keep pushing,” McGhee said. “If you don’t have pressure, then you get lax and have nothing to fight for. We have everything to fight for.”
Chatmon used the poll after the game to show his unranked and youthful Indians that they are capable of playing with the region’s top teams this season.
“I said, ‘That’s supposed to be the best team in Southwest Georgia, so what does that say about you?’ ” Chatmon said.
Monroe girls coach Cheryl Cheeks said being No. 1 can be both beneficial and burdensome.
“It depends on what you do with it. If the girls stay humble then we will be OK,” said Cheeks, whose Lady Tornadoes held on for a 59-48 victory against Albany. “We are grateful to be No.1, but we are humble.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO CRISP: The Monroe teams travel to Crisp County Friday night for a pair of crucial Region 1-AAAA games, and each matchup comes with some added incentive.
The girls game features the top two teams in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll — No. 1 Monroe (6-0, 4-0) and No. 2 Crisp (3-0, 2-0).
The teams split in the regular season last year, and the Lady Cougars edged the Lady Tornadoes, 49-46, in the region semifinals when Crisp stars Kayla Green and Nasheema Oliver combined for 37 points.
Cheeks said her team isn’t changing its game plan, which features frantic, defensive pressure, for Friday’s contest.
“We just have to go and play hard like we normally do,” Cheeks said. “We aren’t going to change anything about what we do. We are just going to play hard and hope for a win.”
The boys game is a rematch of last year’s region championship game, which Crisp won, 63-49, for its first region title in school history.
Monroe wants revenge.
“We are going to talk about that this week,” Davis said. “That is going to be our motivation.”
SGA BOYS RELYING HEAVY ON CHAMBLESS COUSINS: Southwest Georgia Academy coach David Byrne is glad he has junior leading scorer McKinley Chambless for another season after this year.
But while he has both Chambless boys on his team this year, he plans on taking full advantage.
Alex Chambless, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, and cousin McKinley Chambless, a 6-5 junior post player, might be one of the most dynamic 1-2 punches in Southwest Georgia this season. The duo combined for 44 points and nearly 20 rebounds in Tuesday’s win against Grace Christian as McKinley led the way with 25 and Alex added 19.
“They just feed off each other,” said Byrne, who is coaching only the boys this season after pulling double duty as the boys and girls coach last year. “They play extremely well together. Most of Alex’s points seem to come on opportunities created by McKinley down low when he’s double-teamed, and it seems like most of McKinley’s points come from Alex driving and dishing, creating chances for him to score. They don’t have a problem finding each other.”
The Warriors improved to 4-1 after holding off a much-improved Grace Christian program, 70-65. Grace was led by Phillip Bowen’s 27 points and 23 from Jack McCrae.
SGA returns to action Friday at Randolph Southern.
BAINBRIDGE PASSES FIRST BIG TEST AS NO. 2 LOOMS: The Bainbridge boys basketball team, which has posted a staggering 77-14 record in the last three seasons — complete with deep runs at state each year – opened the 2012-13 season Tuesday night with a victory against a bigger Colquitt County program out of Class AAAAAA, 63-42.
But things are only going to get more difficult for the Bearcats on Friday.
That’s when Bainbridge hosts one of the top teams in Georgia — and maybe the nation — in Tift County (2-0).
But just how much firepower Tift County brings to the court Friday remains to be seen.
That’s because the Blue Devils’ program is under investigation by the Georgia High School Association after being accused of illegally recruiting players, according to a recent published report by the Tifton Gazette.
The newspaper reported back in mid-November that the Turner County School System — former home of current Blue Devils coach Eric Holland — filed a complaint with the GHSA alleging that Holland lured two student-athletes from nearby Turner County to play for Tift. One is a high school player, while the other is still in middle school, according to the report. Neither player was identified by name.
Tift County School Superintendent Patrick Atwater told the newspaper that he was confident that Holland did nothing wrong and expected to hear about the GHSA’s findings before the Blue Devils kicked off the season last week against Westover.
“I have no reason to believe from the information that our staff provided me and the GHSA that any of the Turner County concerns will be validated,” Atwater told The Gazette.
But with no word from the GHSA before Tift’s opener this past Saturday, the Blue Devils dressed everyone against the Patriots and cruised to an 89-67 win, thanks to recent Kansas signee Brannan Greene’s 30 points.
No matter who plays against Bainbridge on Friday, the Bearcats will need more all-around, solid performances like they got Tuesday against the Packers from their three leading scorers: Tyree Crump (18 points), Dontavious Marshall (16) and Tim Shaw (10).
SEMINOLE BOYS WIN OPENER, DEDICATE VICTORY TO FALLEN GIRLS COACH: No one at Seminole County was complaining Tuesday night after its team — which is made up primarily of varsity football players who just ended their season in the second round of state last Friday — had just two days of practice to prepare for its season opener against Quitman County.
That’s because the Indians were playing with heavy hearts in the 65-44 win.
Seminole (1-0) dedicated its first win of the season to former longtime girls coach Jessie McLeod, who died suddenly in August following a short bout with pancreatic cancer. McLeod, whose 40-year legacy as the girls coach and athletic director in Donalsonville includes the school’s gym being named after him, was diagnosed shortly after the season ended in April and died just four months later.
“This community is still devastated. Just so tragic to lose him like that,” Seminole boys coach Kevin Godwin said. “He meant so much to so many people. It was a terrible, terrible loss.”
The girls team also won its opener, 59-50, and dedicated it to McLeod as well. The girls team was taken over by Wes Williams, the son of former Calhoun County girls coach Mike Williams.
As for the boys, Seminole County QB Jakhari Martin went from leading the Indians on the football field to leading them on the hardwood as he poured in a game-high 17 points in the win, followed by Jahmyha Person with 14 and Shavon Wiggins, also a star on the Seminole football team, with 11.
Godwin said he was “very pleased” with how his team played after such a short time preparing.
“Well, eight of our top 10 players are on the football team, so our practices have featured a few older kids against most of our JV kids — but it’s a great problem to have. I only wish we still had it,” said Godwin, referring to the absence of the Indians players due to the football state playoffs, which ended in a highly controversial second-round defeat to Dooly County, 34-28, because of several disputed calls near the end of the game. “But (Tuesday), we played a lot better than I thought we would. It was a win — and a win on the road, no less.”
NOT EVEN CLOSE: The Patriots have either blown people away or been blown out this year. All four of their wins have come by 20 or more points and the one loss, against Class AAAAAA power Tift County, was by 22. It’s safe to say one of Westover’s next three games will be close enough to put some heat on the Pats’ backside. Westover is on the road at Terrell County on Saturday, home against 2012 Elite Eight Crisp County on Tuesday and then at rival Monroe the following Friday.
Head coach Dallis Smith will be interested to see how The Herald No. 2-ranked Patriots handle the pressure with several new faces on the court this season.
“As the season goes, we can mature a little bit,” Smith said. “Guys like C.J. (Davis) and Khalil (Carson) – those guys are not used to it. The more games we get under our belt, hopefully they’ll get used to it.”
Herald sports editor Danny Aller and Herald staff writer Matt Stewart contributed to this report.